AUSTRALIANS have always enjoyed a beer.
So what do Australia’s earliest convict records have in common with brewing?
One of the First Fleet convicts was James Squire, or Squires.
Squires was the first in Australia to successfully grow hops and brew his own beer.
His name survives in the well-known James Squire Brewery.
Squires was sentenced to be transported ‘beyond the seas’ for seven years at the ‘General Session of the Peace at the Town and Hundred of Kingston upon Thames’ on April 11 1785.
He arrived on the First Fleet ship Charlotte in 1788.
You can now see James Squires’ name on the First Fleet convict documents online.
State Records NSW has recently digitised not just the records for the First Fleet but other convict arrivals to 1801.
Its online project Sentenced beyond the Seas makes these images available for the first time in colour.
State Records NSW is the custodian of the oldest records of the European colonisation of Australia and Jenni Stapleton is its Acting Director.
“Sentenced beyond the Seas is State Records NSW’s free gift to the people of Australia and the world to mark the 225th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove on January 26 1788,” Ms Stapleton said.
Project coordinator and archivist Janette Pelosi, herself a First Fleet descendant, said there are many stories to be told from these convict records.
Thomas Barrett was first embarked in 1784 on the Mercury to be transported to America but never reached there.
The convicts took over the ship before leaving English waters but were later captured.
As a mutineer Barrett should have received the death penalty but was reprieved as he had saved the life of a steward.
Instead in 1787 he was sent to Botany Bay on the Charlotte.
Thomas Barrett has been attributed as the skilful maker of “The Charlotte Medal”, now held by the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Barrett was the leader of three men who stole beef and pease from the new colony’s stores on February 27 1788.
Found guilty the same day by the first Criminal Court he became the first person executed at Sydney.
“Like Thomas Barrett, James Bird was not so fortunate,” Ms Pelosi said.
Bird escaped from Sydney in a small fishing boat with William Bryant, Bryant’s wife Mary their two children and five other male convicts.
They arrived at Timor on June 5 1791 and were arrested.
Bird died on route to the Cape of Good Hope while Mary reached England where she was eventually pardoned.
Mary Bryant’s remarkable story was told in the Australian television mini-series The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant (2005).
Ms Pelosi said others who arrived on the First Fleet fared better, such as women like Elizabeth Dalton and Mary Parker who arrived on the Lady Penrhyn.
Elizabeth Dalton became the wife of Assistant Surgeon Thomas Arndell and Mary Parker married First Fleet convict John Small.
Both established large families with many descendants today.
So too did John Martin, an African-American seamen, who arrived on the Alexander as a convict.
His sentence expired in 1789 and he received a grant of land in 1792.
He was a constable for many years and had five children with his second wife, Mary Randall.
You can see the names of Thomas Barrett, James Bird, Elizabeth Dalton, Mary Parker, John Martin and, of course, James Squires, in the First Fleet records in Sentenced beyond the Seas, available on State Records website www.records.nsw.gov.au.